A high-ranking official of the Laborers International Union has been indicted in Miami along with four other men, including the reputed organized crime boss of New England, on a federal racketeering charge. They are accused of receiving more than $250,000 in kickbacks from insurance companies set up to disguise their alleged looting of union insurance premiums.
The indictment of Arthur E. Coia of Providence, R.I., secretary-treasurer of the 627,000-member laborers union, and Raymond L.S. Patriarca, the reputed Mafia chief from Providence, forms the latest charge in what authorities have described as a multimillion-dollar scheme to set up insurance companies to funnel payoffs to top union officials and others.
A federal grand jury in Miami returned the one-count indictment against Coia and the others Wednesday.
In announcing the indictment yesterday, Atlee W. Wampler III, the U.S. attorney in Miami, said Patriarca told a government witness in 1976 that the insurance business of the laborers union "would be controlled by 'the family,' "a reference to the Mafia.
Wampler quoted Patriarca as saying the country would be divided into territories with Patriarca controlling the union's northeast insurance business, and two other reputed organized-crime bosses, Santo Trafficante of Tampa, and Anthony (Joe Batters) Accardo of Chicago, controlling the South and Midwest, respectively.
Last June, the president of the laborers union, Angelo Fosco, 60, of Chicago, plus Trafficante, Accardo and 13 others were indicted in Miami on similar charges involving $2 million in alleged kickbacks from union insurance funds.
Fosco and Coia were reelected to their posts at the union's national convention last week in Hollywood, Fla. Union officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.
A major government witness in the investigation is Joseph Hauser, a convicted insurance swindler. According to the Miami indictment, the scheme, which lasted from late 1973 through 1977, called for Hauser to set up an insurance company to handle the insurance business of laborers union locals, but the primary aim was to funnel payoffs to Hauser, Coia, Patriarca and others involved in the scheme.
In 1974, the indictment says, Coia and Hauser met with Patriarca to discuss ways to channel insurance kickbacks to Patriarca through another union official.
The indictment also alleges that Coia, whose union salary was $106,000 last year, used his influence to steer union insurance business to Hauser's companies and provided Hauser with inside union information that helped him win union insurance contracts.
In return, according to the indictment, Hauser made $5,000 payments to Coia totaling more than $100,000.